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THE BEGINNINGS OF TRAVEL FOR CULTURE

Of the many social impulses that were influenced by the Renaissance, by that “new lernynge which runnythe all the world over now-a-days,” the love of travel received a notable modification. This very old instinct to go far, far away had in the Middle Ages found sanction, dignity and justification in the performance of pilgrimages. It is open to doubt whether the number of the truly pious would ever have filled so many ships to Port Jaffa had not their ranks been swelled by the restless, the adventurous, the wanderers of all classes.

Towards the sixteenth century, when curiosity about things human was an ever stronger undercurrent in England, pilgrimages were particularly popular. In 1434, Henry vi. granted licences to 2433 pilgrims to the shrine of St James of Compostella alone. The numbers were so large that the control of their transportation became a coveted business enterprise. “Pilgrims at this time were really an article of exportation,” says Sir Henry Ellis, in commenting on a letter of the Earl of Oxford to Henry vi., asking for a licence for a ship of which he was owner, to carry pilgrims. “Ships were every year loaded from different ports with cargoes of these deluded wanderers, who carried with them large sums of money to defray the expenses of their journey."

Among the earliest books printed in England was Informacon for Pylgrymes unto the Holy Londe, by Wynkin de Worde, one which ran to three editions, an almost exact copy of William Wey’s “prevysyoun” (provision) for a journey eastwards. The tone and content of this Informacon differ very little from the later Directions for Travellers which are the subject of our study. The advice given shows that the ordinary pilgrim thought, not of the ascetic advantages of the voyage, or of simply arriving in safety at his holy destination, but of making the trip in the highest possible degree of personal comfort and pleasure. He is advised to take with him two barrels of wine ("For yf ye wolde geve xx dukates for a barrel ye shall none have after that ye passe moche Venyse"); to buy orange-ginger, almonds, rice, figs, cloves, maces and loaf sugar also, to eke out the fare the ship will provide. And this although he is to make the patron swear, before the pilgrim sets foot in the galley, that he will serve “hôte meete twice at two meals a day.” He whom we are wont to think of as a poor wanderer, with no possessions but his grey cloak and his staff, is warned not to embark for the Holy Land without carrying with him “a lytell cawdron, a fryenge panne, dysshes, platers, cuppes of glasse ... a fether bed, a matrasse, a pylawe, two payre sheets and a quylte” ... a cage for half a dozen of hens or chickens to have with you in the ship, and finally, half a bushel of “myle sede” to feed the chickens. Far from being encouraged to exercise a humble and abnegatory spirit on the voyage, he is to be at pains to secure a berth in the middle of the ship, and not to mind paying fifty ducats for to be in a good honest place, “to have your ease in the galey and also to be cherysshed.” Still more unchristian are the injunctions to run ahead of one’s fellows, on landing, in order to get the best quarters at the inn, and first turn at the dinner provided; and above all, at Port Jaffa, to secure the best ass, “for ye shall paye no more for the best than for the worste.”

But while this book was being published, new forces were at hand which were to strip the thin disguise of piety from pilgrims of this sort. The Colloquies of Erasmus appeared before the third edition of Informacon for Pylgrymes, and exploded the idea that it was the height of piety to have seen Jerusalem. It was nothing but the love of change, Erasmus declared, that made old bishops run over huge spaces of sea and land to reach Jerusalem. The noblemen who flocked thither had better be looking after their estates, and married men after their wives. Young men and women travelled “non sine gravi discrimine morum et integritatis.” Pilgrimages were a dissipation. Some people went again and again and did nothing else all their lives long. The only satisfaction they looked for or received was entertainment to themselves and their friends by their remarkable adventures, and ability to shine at dinner-tables by recounting their travels. There was no harm in going sometimes, but it was not pious. And people could spend their time, money and pains on something which was truly pious.

It was only a few years after this that that pupil of Erasmus and his friends, King Henry the Eighth, who startled Europe by the way he not only received new ideas but acted upon them, swept away the shrines, burned our Lady of Walsingham and prosecuted “the holy blisful martyr” Thomas a Becket for fraudulent pretensions.

But a new object for travel was springing up and filling the leading minds of the sixteenth century the desire of learning, at first hand, the best that was being thought and said in the world. Humanism was the new power, the new channel into which men were turning in the days when “our naturell, yong, lusty and coragious prynce and sovrayne lord King Herre the Eighth entered into the flower of pleasaunt youthe." And as the scientific spirit or the socialistic spirit can give to the permanent instincts of the world a new zest, so the Renaissance passion for self-expansion and for education gave to the old road a new mirage.

All through the fifteenth century the universities of Italy, pre-eminent since their foundation for secular studies, had been gaining reputation by their offer of a wider education than the threadbare discussions of the schoolmen. The discovery and revival in the fifteenth century of Greek literature, which had stirred Italian society so profoundly, gave to the universities a northward-spreading fame. Northern scholars, like Rudolf Agricola, hurried south to find congenial air at the centre of intellectual life. That professional humanists could not do without the stamp of true culture which an Italian degree gave to them, Erasmus, observer of all things, notes in the year 1500 to the Lady of Veer:

“Two things, I feel, are very necessary: one that I go to Italy, to gain for my poor learning some authority from the celebrity of the place; the other, that I take the degree of Doctor; both senseless, to be sure. For people do not straightway change their minds because they cross the sea, as Horace says, nor will the shadow of an impressive name make me a whit more learned ... but we must put on the lion’s skin to prove our ability to those who judge a man by his title and not by his books, which in truth they do not understand."

Although Erasmus despised degree-hunting, it is well known that he felt the power of Italy. He was tempted to remain in Rome for ever, by reason of the company he found there. “What a sky and fields, what libraries and pleasant walks and sweet confabulation with the learned ..." he exclaims, in afterwards recalling that paradise of scholars. There was, for instance, the Cardinal Grimani, who begged Erasmus to share his life ... and books. And there was Aldus Manutius. We get a glimpse of the Venetian printing-house when Aldus and Erasmus worked together: Erasmus sitting writing regardless of the noise of printers, while Aldus breathlessly reads proof, admiring every word. “We were so busy,” says Erasmus, “we scarce had time to scratch our ears."

It was this charm of intellectual companionship which started the whole stream of travel animi causa. Whoever had keen wits, an agile mind, imagination, yearned for Italy. There enlightened spirits struck sparks from one another. Young and ardent minds in England and in Germany found an escape from the dull and melancholy grimness of their uneducated elders purely practical fighting-men, whose ideals were fixed on a petrified code of life.

I need not explain how Englishmen first felt this charm of urbane civilization. The travels of Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, of Gunthorpe, Flemming, Grey and Free, have been recently described by Mr Einstein in The Italian Renaissance in England. As for Italian journeys of Selling, Grocyn, Latimer, Tunstall, Colet and Lily, of that extraordinary group of scholars who transformed Oxford by the introduction of Greek ideals and gave to it the peculiar distinction which is still shining, I mention them only to suggest that they are the source of the Renaissance respect for a foreign education, and the founders of the fashion which, in its popular spreadings, we will attempt to trace. They all studied in Italy, and brought home nothing but good. For to scholarship they joined a native force of character which gave a most felicitous introduction to England of the fine things of the mind which they brought home with them. By their example they gave an impetus to travel for education’s sake which lesser men could never have done.

Though through Grocyn, Linacre and Tunstall, Greek was better taught in England than in Italy, according to Erasmus, at the time Henry viii. came to the throne, the idea of Italy as the goal of scholars persisted. Rich churchmen, patrons of letters, launched promising students on to the Continent to give them a complete education; as Richard Fox, Founder of Corpus Christi, sent Edward Wotton to Padua, “to improve his learning and chiefly to learn Greek," or Thomas Langton, Bishop of Winchester, supported Richard Pace at the same university. To Reginald Pole, the scholar’s life in Italy made so strong an appeal that he could never be reclaimed by Henry viii. Shunning all implication in the tumult of the political world, he slipped back to Padua, and there surrounded himself with friends, “singular fellows, such as ever absented themselves from the court, desiring to live holily." To his household at Padua gravitated other English students fond of “good company and the love of learned men”; Thomas Lupset, the confidant of Erasmus and Richard Pace; Thomas Winter, Wolsey’s reputed natural son; Thomas Starkey, the historian; George Lily, son of the grammarian; Michael Throgmorton, and Richard Morison, ambassador-to-be.

There were other elements that contributed to the growth of travel besides the desire to become exquisitely learned. The ambition of Henry viii. to be a power in European politics opened the liveliest intercourse with the Continent. It was soon found that a special combination of qualities was needed in the ambassadors to carry out his aspirations. Churchmen, like the ungrateful Pole, for whose education he had generously subscribed, were often unpliable to his views of the Pope; a good old English gentleman, though devoted, might be like Sir Robert Wingfield, simple, unsophisticated, and the laughingstock of foreigners. A courtier, such as Lord Rochford, who could play tennis, make verses, and become “intime” at the court of Francis I., could not hold his own in disputes of papal authority with highly educated ecclesiastics. Hence it came about that the choice of an ambassador fell more and more upon men of sound education who also knew something of foreign countries: such as Sir Thomas Wyatt, or Sir Richard Wingfield, of Cambridge and Gray’s Inn, who had studied at Ferrara; Sir Nicholas Wotton, who had lived in Perugia, and graduated doctor of civil and canon law; or Anthony St Liéger, who, according to Lloyd, “when twelve years of age was sent for his grammar learning with his tutor into France, for his carriage into Italy, for his philosophy to Cambridge, for his law to Gray’s Inn: and for that which completed all, the government of himself, to court; where his debonairness and freedom took with the king, as his solidity and wisdom with the Cardinal." Sometimes Henry was even at pains to pick out and send abroad promising university students with a view to training them especially for diplomacy. On one of his visits to Oxford he was impressed with the comely presence and flowing expression of John Mason, who, though the son of a cowherd, was notable at the university for his “polite and majestick speaking.”

King Henry disposed of him in foreign parts, to add practical experience to his speculative studies, and paid for his education out of the king’s Privy Purse, as we see by the royal expenses for September 1530. Among such items as “L8, 18s. to Hanybell Zinzano, for drinks and other medicines for the King’s Horses”; and, “20s. to the fellow with the dancing dog,” is the entry of “a year’s exhibition to Mason, the King’s scholar at Paris, L3, 6d."

Another educational investment of the King’s was Thomas Smith, afterwards as excellent an ambassador as Mason, whom he supported at Cambridge, and according to Camden, at riper years made choice of to be sent into Italy. “For even till our days,” says Camden under the year 1577, “certain young men of promising hopes, out of both Universities, have been maintained in foreign countries, at the King’s charge, for the more complete polishing of their Parts and Studies." The diplomatic career thus opened to young courtiers, if they proved themselves fit for service by experience in foreign countries, was therefore as strong a motive for travel as the desire to reach the source of humanism.

This again merged into the pursuit of a still more informal education the sort which comes from “seeing the world.” The marriage of Mary Tudor to Louis xii., and later the subtle bond of humanism and high spirits which existed between Francis I. and his “very dear and well-beloved good brother, cousin and gossip, perpetual ally and perfect friend,” Henry the Eighth, led a good many of Henry’s courtiers to attend the French court at one time or another particularly the most dashing favourites, and leaders of fashion, the “friskers,” as Andrew Boorde calls them, such as Charles Brandon, George Boleyn, Francis Bryan, Nicholas Carew, or Henry Fitzroy. With any ambassador went a bevy of young gentlemen, who on their return diffused a certain mysterious sophistication which was the envy of home-keeping youth. According to Hall, when they came back to England they were “all French in eating and drinking and apparel, yea, and in the French vices and brags: so that all the estates of England were by them laughed at, the ladies and gentlewomen were dispraised, and nothing by them was praised, but if it were after the French turn." From this time on young courtiers pressed into the train of an ambassador in order to see the world and become like Ann Boleyn’s captivating brother, or Elizabeth’s favourite, the Earl of Oxford, or whatever gallant was conspicuous at court for foreign graces.

There was still another contributory element to the growth of travel, one which touched diplomats, scholars, and courtiers the necessity of learning modern languages. By the middle of the sixteenth century Latin was no longer sufficient for intercourse between educated people. In the most civilized countries the vernacular had been elevated to the dignity of the classical tongues by being made the literary vehicle of such poets as Politian and Bembo, Ronsard and Du Bellay. A vernacular literature of great beauty, too important to be overlooked, began to spring up on all sides. One could no longer keep abreast of the best thought without a knowledge of modern languages. More powerful than any academic leanings was the Renaissance curiosity about man, which could not be satisfied through the knowledge of Latin only. Hardly anyone but churchmen talked Latin in familiar conversation with one. When a man visited foreign courts and wished to enter into social intercourse with ladies and fashionables, or move freely among soldiers, or settle a bill with an innkeeper, he found that he sorely needed the language of the country. So by the time we reach the reign of Edward vi., we find Thomas Hoby, a typical young gentleman of the period, making in his diary entries such as these: “Removed to the middes of Italy, to have a better knowledge of ye tongue and to see Tuscany.” “Went to Sicily both to have a sight of the country and also to absent myself for a while out of Englishmenne’s companie for the tung’s sake." Roger Ascham a year or two later writes from Germany that one of the chief advantages of being at a foreign court was the ease with which one learned German, French, and Italian, whether he would or not. “I am almost an Italian myself and never looks on it.” He went so far as to say that such advantages were worth ten fellowships at St John’s.

We have noted how Italy came to be the lode-stone of scholars, and how courtiers sought the grace which France bestowed, but we have not yet accounted for the attraction of Germany. Germany, as a centre of travel, was especially popular in the reign of Edward the Sixth. France went temporarily out of fashion with those men of whom we have most record. For in Edward’s reign the temper of the leading spirits in England was notably at variance with the court of France. It was to Germany that Edward’s circle of Protestant politicians, schoolmasters, and chaplains felt most drawn to the country where the tides of the Reformation were running high, and men were in a ferment over things of the spirit; to the country of Sturm and Bucer, and Fagius and Ursinus the doctrinalists and educators so revered by Cambridge. Cranmer, who gathered under his roof as many German savants as could survive in the climate of England, kept the current of understanding and sympathy flowing between Cambridge and Germany, and since Cambridge, not Oxford, dominated the scholarly and political world of Edward the Sixth, from that time on Germany, in the minds of the St John’s men, such as Burleigh, Ascham and Hoby, was the place where one might meet the best learned of the day.

We have perhaps said enough to indicate roughly the sources of the Renaissance fashion for travel which gave rise to the essays we are about to discuss. The scholar’s desire to specialize at a foreign university, in Greek, in medicine, or in law; the courtier’s ambition to acquire modern languages, study foreign governments, and generally fit himself for the service of the State, were dignified aims which in men of character produced very happy results. It was natural that others should follow their example. In Elizabethan times the vogue of travelling to become a “compleat person” was fully established. And though in mean and trivial men the ideal took on such odd shapes and produced such dubious results that in every generation there were critics who questioned the benefits of travel, the ideal persisted. There was always something, certainly, to be learned abroad, for men of every calibre. Those who did not profit by the study of international law learned new tricks of the rapier. And because experience of foreign countries was expensive and hard to come at, the acquirement of it gave prestige to a young man.

Besides, underneath worldly ambition was the old curiosity to see the world and know all sorts of men to be tried and tested. More powerful than any theory of education was the yearning for far-off, foreign things, and the magic of the sea.